Harry Barnes Grantee report from a first-time AAO-HNSF Leadership Forum attendee
I had the privilege of attending the 2015 AAO-HNS Leadership Forum March 14-16. I received the Harry Barnes Endowment travel grant to attend the conference. To apply for the grant, I wrote an essay detailing the best way to promote diversity in our Academy.
By Ceisha Ukatu, MD, otolaryngology-head and neck surgery resident, University of Missouri-Columbia
I had the privilege of attending the 2015 AAO-HNS Leadership Forum March 14-16. I received the Harry Barnes Endowment travel grant to attend the conference. To apply for the grant, I wrote an essay detailing the best way to promote diversity in our Academy. I do think there are many ways that we can achieve this and we have numerous strides to make. However, at the leadership forum, I experienced diversity in every sense of the word. There were otolaryngologists from the all areas of the country, young and old, private practice physicians and academicians. There were leaders in our field and new residents, black and white, male and female. We discussed everything from mentorship and quality improvement to negotiating contracts and the Sustainable Growth Rate.
To say the least, I was pleased with the entire experience. In March, I was a first-year resident and it was my first Academy conference. I can only imagine the excitement I will encounter at the Annual Meeting in September. It was pleasing to learn so much about our field, including triumphs, struggles, and expectations for the future. There were many topics that impacted how I will face the next four years of residency as well as the entirety of my future career.
For example, Christine B. Franzese, MD, shared her insight about the importance of academic general otolaryngologists. Despite my interest in academic medicine and general otolaryngology, I never saw this as a viable option until I listened to her discuss her successful and rewarding practice. Another concise and compelling talk from Mona M. Abaza, MD, highlighted the topic of mentorship in a new and unexpected way. She not only emphasized finding a mentor, but she also expressed differences between a mentor, sponsor, and life coach, and when you might need one versus the other. This spin on the topic made it more useful than talks on mentorship I have attended in the past.
While I was pleased with the conference, I will admit that I felt overwhelmed at times. There is so much going on behind the scenes that enables our Academy to run as smoothly and effectively as it does. In a way, I felt like a little fish in a big pond. There are many avenues to take in terms of getting involved and making a difference in our field. Deciding where to start can be scary. One of the best messages I took from the conference was from Samantha Anne, MD. She encouraged everyone in attendance to “just show up.” It can be in a small or a big way. The importance lies in choosing to do something—anything—and just doing it. She told a story of how she applied to committees for four years in a row and was denied each time. Eventually, she was encouraged to attend committee meetings in which she was interested. She then began to volunteer and do cherished work for the committee. Currently, she serves as the chair of the Young Physicians Section. This is truly inspiring to me, given the confidence it took for Dr. Anne to “just show up” despite the multiple times she was rejected. She then took advantage of her opportunity and rose to a leadership role. Her example is one that we all can learn from.
With that said, I encourage all of us to “just show up” this year for our Academy. For me this means contacting my congressmen and women about important legislation. I have already done this with SGR reform and the audiology “physician status” legislation. Contacting legislators is something all of us can easily do. The BOG Legislative Affairs committee is constantly thinking of new and simple ways to get our Members involved in these efforts. Secondly, I will start donating to the ENT PAC. At the conference we discussed how important this is in determining our society’s legislative clout. Legislators and government officials look at the percentage of Academy Members that donate to the ENT PAC to determine how active and involved the society Members are. Additionally, these donations help pave the way for candidates that support legislation in our best interest. The last goal I have for involvement this year is to become active in a committee. This takes a bit more time and effort but seems like it can be a very rewarding experience.
I realize that these may be small steps, but at the conference I learned that small is enough. If each one of us takes one or two small steps, it strengthens our academy and increases the value of our membership.
Thank you to the Diversity Committee for awarding me the Harry Barnes travel grant. I likely would not have attended the leadership conference without it. Obtaining such beneficial information at the onset of my career was invaluable for me.